Ice King has always been a mixture of cute, pitiable and creepy and, in Emily Partridge, Pranas Naujokaitis and Natalie Andrewson’s “Adventure Time: Ice King” #1, he leans more towards those latter two qualities. The first scene sets the tone, with another of Ice King’s Fionna and Cake dreams. It doesn’t serve the plot any further than to remind the reader of Ice King’s loneliness and narcissism, and the story that follows doesn’t give any deeper insight into the character.
The gimmicky plot device that catalyzes the action is Gunther the penguin’s unexplained disappearance. Ice King’s distress over this loss is a bit much, even if one takes into account his perennial immaturity. The use of pet names such as “Gunty-Poo” and “lil’ sweetums” is off-putting or at least worthy of mockery in any context (even for lovers, children or pets). In a situation between a master and servant, it’s more gross than funny, especially for longtime readers. New readers might not be as disturbed since they don’t need to reconcile or adjust to the change in dynamic. It’s less disturbing to simply assume that Ice King always acts like he’s the stereotypically doting owner of a pampered toy dog.
Ice King’s quest for Gunther’s whereabouts doesn’t build in suspense as the story progresses. There is no serious concern for Gunther’s wellbeing and it seems certain Ice King will get him back eventually. The episodic quality to the quest isn’t necessarily a problem, as most “Adventure Time” cartoons and comics have a freewheeling, nonlinear, associative logic to them, but many of the scenes in “Adventure Time: Ice King” #1 don’t have enough energy, humor or wacky surprises in them to justify the panel space.
Finn, Jake and BMO’s cameo appearances don’t serve much purpose except to point the way towards the next scene. However, the Copy Kingdom scene is surprising and hilarious. For its daring and imagination, it’s by far the strongest part of the entire issue. Andrewson’s facial expressions are at their funniest for the weeping, agitated copy machine.
Partridge and Naujokaitis’ pacing begins to drag in the scenes that follow. The page where Ice King papers the kingdom with lost signs is cluttered, and Princess Bubblegum and Lumpy Space Princess’ cameos don’t add much to the humor or the plot. The scenes in Wizard City feel even slower and even more predictable. The jokes fall flat, particularly the one about Ron James’ illiteracy.
Natalie Andrewson’s art has an enjoyable and suitable quirkiness, especially in the details, like in the panel for Ice King’s shower in which ice cubes bounce off his back. Her color work is thoughtful without being vivid. The translucency of the ice covering an alarm clock is attractive, and she wisely adds teal to various shades of blue to add dimension to the scenes in Ice King’s realm. Her palette has both warm and cold tones, and she takes successful risks in using unusual hues like mauve and pomegranate red. The backgrounds have a lot of detail and the color work doesn’t neglect those details. However, her pale and weak line quality diminishes these strengths.
It’s immediately noticeable that Andrewson’s artwork lacks line variation. All the linework in “Adventure Time: Ice King” #1 has the same thickness of a ballpoint pen mark, and it doesn’t look good after the cartoony polish of most of Ice King’s previous appearances. This goes for the lettering, too, which does a good job with following speech patterns but looks amateur.
There is little sense of three-dimensional space in the art, despite some lackluster shadows provided by the colors. Andrewson also doesn’t have a consistent use of perspective that could make up for the monotonous thinness of line.
As the main antagonist in “Adventure Time,” Ice King has been overdue for his own miniseries, but unfortunately “Adventure Time: Ice King” #1 is a departure from the high standard set by the cartoon, the ongoing series and previous miniseries and spinoffs.